life (briefly) near a supernova‘ (PDF) is a paper written by steven i. dutch which speaks in layman’s terms about what it would be like to actually witness a supernova. for illustrative purposes, he offers some pretty chilling comparisons to smaller-scale events:

The sun going supernova would be the equivalent of standing a kilometer away when the entire Earth’s nuclear arsenal goes off every second. And this radiation flux would go on for several days before dropping to a plateau of “only” a billion times solar luminosity for roughly 100 days. Clearly, the Earth would not survive.


How bright is 10 billion times solar luminosity?…It would take 100,000 Suns to cover the visible sky. Imagine the entire sky covered with Suns. Now imagine each of them 100,000 times brighter than our Sun. You could never see anything this bright. Your light receptors would overload instantly and you would probably vaporize before the sensory input could reach your brain. Very likely the flux of penetrative (X-ray and gamma ray) radiation would be enough to disrupt every atomic bond in your body before the sensory input could reach your brain.

good reading for any of you who are interested in sci-fi, astronomy or really big explosions that result in entire planets being boiled away by radiation.

via metafilter